Read our stories below. Want to get involved in the working group? Please email internationalscholars@uaw5810.org and we’ll get right back to you!

Carmen Falcone

My name is Carmen Falcone. I am from Italy, and I do research in Evolutionary and Developmental Neuroscience. I came to UC because it was well known for my field of research and because I found the opportunity to pursue the research field I was most interested in.

I have been impacted by the COVID travel restrictions for non-citizens. I am very worried that the situation may get worse and I won’t be able to go back to my country or have relatives come visit me for long time. Like many of my fellow international scholars at UC, I am worried about my visa status, and about the unpredictability of my status as an immigrant here. If this climate of hostility against immigrants continues, I may decide to go back to Europe, thus losing the opportunity to keep doing my research here and advance the career that I have been building so far.

Mehmet Doğan

My name is Mehmet Dogan. I’m from Turkey, and currently a postdoc in physics at UC Berkeley. I came to UC in 2018 after going through a 10-month delay in obtaining a J-1 visa. I didn’t want to give up the opportunity of participating in cutting edge scientific research available here at UC.

I decided to pursue permanent residency in the US so that I’d have flexibility in traveling, job search, and provide the same flexibility to my spouse. However, due to the increasingly arbitrary nature of the adjudications, my application got denied. The June 22 executive order has also complicated my ability to get an H-1B visa. The struggle to have the status to simply remain and work in the US, or travel in and out of the country, is feeling increasingly like a hurdle race. Many other developed countries make it easier for people who have received higher education in that country to become permanent residents. We’re seriously looking into these alternatives.

Marcos Diaz-Gay

My name is Marcos Diaz-Gay, I am from Spain and I currently work as a postdoc at UC San Diego, doing research on computational biology, more specifically on cancer genomics. I came to UC to work with one of the leaders of my research field at the beginning of this 2020, just one month before the lock-down and this COVID crisis that changed our lives from how we previously understood them.

These complicated times have also been a proof of the challenges to face as international scholars in the US, including the simple ability to travel home to visit our families and be able to come back to continue with our job. Recent executive orders and proposed future rules have put the spotlight on us, making our visa status (and the one of our beloved ones) even more unpredictable and raising concerns about the future of our research projects.

Anke Schennink

I am from the Netherlands I came to California to join a lab in the Animal Science department at UC Davis. I’m also the President of Local 5810. For the past 10 years, we have been working to secure more rights and opportunities for visa holders, through our contract negotiations with UC, advocacy at the federal level, legal challenges, and more. Under the current system of employer-controlled visa, international Postdocs and Academic Researchers are vulnerable to greater discrimination and exploitation by their PI/employer.

Recently, actions by the Trump Administration have made the status of visa holders even more precarious, which is impacting the emotional well-being and research of many of us. In my capacity as President of our union, I frequently hear from Postdocs and Academic Researchers who are concerned about their status in the US and the outlook for the lives and careers they have worked so hard to build. Our union has a record of coming together to push back against discriminatory and xenophobic policies from the Trump Administration and winning.

Sarah Louise Earnshaw

I am from Scotland but arrived in California by way of Germany, where I studied my PhD. I work in the history of US foreign relations, at the intersection of political philosophy, international security, and histories of empire. Many of my academic inspirations are scattered across the UC system. For the sheer volume of events, of collaborations, and of critical thinkers, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work here.

But this is certainly a worrying time. Having uprooted my whole life for my work, accepting that my fate is in the hands of a political system I have no direct participation in, is difficult. The COVID travel bans prohibit me from seeing friends and family, and the recognition that our belonging is so precarious, is damaging to mental health. I’m concerned about the impacts on research and keen to protect not only the international collaboration that makes great research possible but also the voices that will only be further marginalised by an immigration system that reinforces racialised exclusions. 

Charlene Smith-Geater

I am from Wales and I moved to California in 2015 after graduating from my PhD. I work in the field of Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease. My PhD work set me up for this using stem cells to model human disease and discover what goes wrong and how we can treat these diseases. I came to UCI to work with one of the leaders in this field of research.

These ever-changing immigration policies have made life stressful during an already difficult time, with travel bans, changes to visas and availability of visas due to the pandemic and Trump administration. I feel like we can strive for change to make life easier, to be able to recruit people from different backgrounds to US universities to progress collaboration and sharing of knowledge in academia.

Fernando Gama

I am a postdoc at the EECS department, working on the use of machine learning for distributed control systems. I started the postdoc in 2020 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania where my work focused mostly on graph neural networks. My goal is to develop the methods and the theory for collaborative intelligence, whereby it is a team of machines that can work together to accomplish a common goal.

I joined ISWG meetings as soon as my appointment started. Right away, in a time of generalized chaos, with confusing guidelines and abrupt changes, the ISWG was there to offer support and help out safeguard the international academic population’s best interests. International postdocs and ARs are fundamental to increase diversity, which naturally expands ideas and improves research outcomes. UAW in general, and the ISWG in particular, are committed to and have shown effectiveness in, improving the context for international scholars and caring for their collective best interests.